Foundation in Sociology
John began his career as an assistant professor at Harvard. A sociologist by trade, he taught architecture courses on how buildings can be designed to benefit the people that live and work within them. As the university shifted increasing focus to the way buildings looked instead of the way they function, John set up a consulting company to continue his work. The new firm performed research. design guideline, and design consulting projects for courthouses, resorts, elderly housing, social services offices, government offices, to name a few.
The company hit an inflection point when it was approached by a company in Indiana that managed nursing homes. They wanted to build an environment that would be truly helpful for residents with dementia, as the current occupants often felt lost and confused in the facility.
John developed the idea of creating a “neighborhood” within a nursing home for people with dementia, which would both improve the resident experience and help the facility run more smoothly. The program was implemented in Indiana, and became a significant success.
The Birth of Hearthstone
Hearthstone Alzheimer Care was formed to take the concepts demonstrated in Indiana, and expand them to Massachusetts and New York. Hearthstone started by re-imagining, renovating, and managing floors in Assisted Living communities, creating an environment much more conducive for people with dementia. For example, in Hearthstone’s facilities every hallway has a destination at the end for people to walk to—so they don’t “wander”. Bland, empty walls are replaced with visually distinctive photographs, painting reproductions, and individualized “reminiscence boxes” so that people can determine where they are. In all, there are 8 criteria for a “best practices” facility, and Hearthstone implements them all.
John also wrote a book on dementia called “I’m Still Here,” which became a best seller in the business and is the basis for a national training program. The company created a training institute, which is teaching an increasingly wide circle of organizations the latest and greatest methods for dementia care. Training follows the “embedded” model, in which people visit Hearthstone residences to see the principles in action and exceptional staff are embedded in training partner communities to provide hands on experience.
Hearthstone is also constructing a brand new facility that will embody all of the characteristics of a center of excellence in dementia care. The center allows people engaged by offering clubs and classes, through excellent communication, offering choice, and giving dignity. The incredible evidence is that in the presence of these factors, the negative symptoms of dementia, such as frustration, often disappear.
The company set out 15 years ago with a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal, in Jim Collins parlance) of having the international Alzheimer’s community proclaim that Hearthstone’s approach was the best practice. That dream is becoming a reality.
What’s next? Spreading these principles to every corner of the world.